Coming soon: healthy living blog!

I’ve always been fascinated by health and nutrition. Over the past year, however, as I’ve made some major lifestyle changes, it’s developed into a passion.

I enjoy learning more and more about nutrition and fitness and applying that new knowledge to my life. But what good is it if I keep all of that information to myself?

I’ve been mulling over the idea of creating a new blog focused on healthy living for the past couple of months and I’ve finally decided to just take the plunge and do it!

It will be a casual affair that includes posts on my pursuit of healthy living; information on nutrition, fitness, skin care and natural home products; cookbook and blog reviews; tips for finding good deals; some of my favorite things; words of encouragement and more!

I’m working on turning this idea into a reality and hope to have it off the ground soon, so stay tuned for a new, regularly updated blog! Look for a link here when I’m ready to take it live!

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See ya 2012!

… and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

It’s been a tough year for me — and my family — and I am more than ready to say adiós to 2012!

I know that each year has its own triumphs and trials and there are bound to be hardships along the way, but I really hope 2013 brings some positive changes in my life. I need it!

So here’s to new adventures and a new year of journeying with the Lord and learning to trust him more!

Happy 2013!

Going paleo

I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for weeks and now I’m finally getting around to typing my thoughts out to share. And I’ll warn you — this could be long! So here goes!

Six months ago, I made a pretty radical change. It was a decision I never thought I would make — and quite honestly, I’m still amazed it “clicked” with me. It’s changed my life and I love it. I “went Paleo.”

Yep. I didn’t just give up gluten, I gave up grains, processed sugars, and most dairy (so technically I’m more “primal” than Paleo since I do allow myself to have some raw, full-fat dairy in limited amounts on occasion). And guess what — after six months of living this lifestyle, I don’t regret it! In fact, I’m totally on board and eager to learn more about nutrition and how the things we eat and the things in our environment impact our health.

I feel great, have more energy, my face is clear for the first time since pre-puberty and I’ve lost weight and inches (even though that wasn’t my intent in starting this). I was stunned recently to realize that I’ve dropped not one, but two sizes, generally speaking, since I started my Paleo journey. (I couldn’t resist a little exclamation of “Yes!” complete with fist in the air and a quick little dance in the dressing room when I put on that pair of jeans and they fit!) I haven’t worn that size since I was about 12 years old!

So how did I go from eating what most Americans would consider a relatively healthy diet to the “extreme” of Paleo? It was both a gradual and a sudden process.

I grew up in a health-conscious home and have always been what most people would consider relatively healthy. My mom always has set a great example on following good health practices. She stays on top of her personal health, feeds her family well and encourages us all to be active and live healthfully. I’ve also always enjoyed learning about nutrition and good health practices. So for the most part, I’ve grown up knowing how to eat well, but I haven’t always allowed that head knowledge to reach my heart and impact what I put in my mouth.

A couple of years ago, some of it started sinking in more. I started eating more organic foods, especially dairy and fruits and veggies without a discarded protective covering. Not all the time, but when I could. About a year ago, I completely gave up soft drinks. I didn’t drink them a lot, but I would have one from time to time. I knew drinking them was basically like pouring poison into my body, and one day I finally decided that I didn’t want to do that any more. So I stopped.

I knew several people during that time frame who started eating gluten-free out of necessity and I tried some gluten-free recipes so I would be able to prepare food for them, but living that lifestyle voluntarily never crossed my mind. I didn’t appear to have any issues with gluten, so I wasn’t about to give it up. In fact, I thought to myself (and I believe even said aloud a time or two) that I felt sorry for people who had to live that way because it must really stink.

Fast forward to earlier this year and my first introduction to Paleo. One of my co-workers started eating Paleo and mentioned it occasionally. I thought to myself, “Have fun with that! There’s no way I could do that.” And I didn’t really think about it any more.

Then in June, my friend Wendy hosted a gluten-free nutrition and cooking class for the women at my church. I decided to go. Again, I was thinking that this would be a great opportunity to learn how to cook gluten-free for Wendy’s family and the others I know who are gluten intolerant. Little did I know what was about to happen!

I firmly believe that God spoke to me through that nutrition class and prompted me to begin this lifestyle. As I sat there and listened to Wendy gracefully share the health knowledge she’s accumulated over the past couple of years in her battle with gluten intolerance and other health issues, particularly how gluten and our gut health impact our entire bodies, I slowly began to feel my mindset on health shifting.

In March, I started battling chronic insomnia. I tried everything I knew to do, then finally got some relief through seeing a sleep specialist and getting a prescription for a mild sleep aid I take on an as needed basis. Through lots of prayer, watching my health and stress levels and focusing on my “sleep hygiene” (daily end-of-the-day winding down rituals), I had seen some improvement. But that’s not enough for me. I want it to go away.

So as I listened to Wendy talk about how going gluten-free and mostly Paleo had changed many aspects of her health and life, I thought, “Maybe I need to try this and see if it helps.” I originally intended to try going gluten-free, not Paleo, to see if it would help my insomnia. But the more I thought about it, and realized that some health changes might also help a more personal health issue I have as well, I couldn’t fully shake the thought that maybe I needed to go all the way, just for 30 days, and see if I could tell a difference. By the end of the day, that’s what I’d made up my mind to do.

I spent a little more than a week researching Paleo eating and looking up recipes and decided that to get the full effect, I wanted to treat my 30-day challenge as a detox and go totally sugar-free except for fruit (so no Paleo treats with honey, maple syrup or other natural sweeteners).

I started my 30-day challenge on Monday, June 18 with the hope of making it a lifestyle change, but still keeping the possibility of dropping back to just eating gluten-free if I didn’t notice a difference. It was tough at first. I had to figure out new meals and snacks to eat and get used to the amount of food prep and planning involved with eating fresh, real foods all the time. Plus, the initial “detox” process the body goes through when it suddenly loses the grains and processed sugars it’s addicted to doesn’t exactly make one feel peachy. But it does pass! The cravings took a little longer to kick. For the first few weeks, I dreamed of eating a brownie. Or a nice panini. But the good news is — the cravings for junk eventually go away, too!

I made it through the 30 days and decided to keep at it. My sleep didn’t improve right away, but I’d experienced enough of a health boost to convince me to continue. The detox process and the good stress (but still stress, nonetheless) of such a dramatic change actually aggravated my sleep issues some. But after I made it through the 30 days, things started to improve.

I even managed to stay “mostly” Paleo while on vacation with my family in early August. I did allow myself to have some meals and snacks that were only gluten-free and I enjoyed a small slice of my cousin’s wedding cake, but I tried to stay pretty close to Paleo. I was pleased with how well I did, but I could still tell a difference in how I felt after several days of “cheating” a little bit. I was amazed when I ate an entire white potato and felt like crap! It bothered my body more than eating the cake! I came back ready to hit the Paleo trail again.

In retrospect, I’m glad I got off the bandwagon a little bit, because it convinced me that I need to keep doing what I’m doing and buy into this lifestyle change 100 percent. I even decided to skip the idea of “the occasional gluten splurge.” There are tons of Paleo treats and alternatives available and I honestly would rather eat those when I want to indulge! In fact, I’ve made it through the entire holiday season that way!

When we returned from vacation, my whole family was blessed to be able to start receiving care at Exodus Chiropractic. The office is great! The doctors are Christians and their approach to care and healing is to look at the whole body, not just isolated issues. A key part of that approach is nutrition. I was excited to realize that the suggested eating lifestyle there is pretty much a Paleo one! So now not only would I be eating that way, but most of my family would, too.

(If you’re curious about Exodus Chiropractic, check out the link to their website! If receiving adjustments and other medical care isn’t what you’re looking for or isn’t something you can do at this time, they also hold worship services and some nutrition classes, like the Shop with a Doc monthly gatherings, that are free and open to anyone!)

It’s been great to have my mom and sister (and my dad and younger brother for the most part) be a part of this lifestyle change as well. My mom has cheered me on the whole time and my sister started eating gluten-free only a short time after I did, but having all of us eating Paleo has been a great support system. We encourage each other, share recipes and enjoy yummy meals and treats together.

In sticking with this, I’ve also discovered that there are initial benefits to a health lifestyle change, but others come more gradually. My sleep didn’t change overnight, but it’s much better now than it was. I still have an occasional rough night and I’m still sensitive to changes in my bedtime routine, but I deal with those situations better than before and bounce back from them much easier.

I’ve found even more enjoyment in living Paleo over the past couple of months as I’ve seen more health benefits and it’s truly become a way of life. It isn’t something I’m doing because I feel like I have to — I’m loving it! It’s a joy to live this way!

I’m eager to learn all I can about living Paleo and share my experience with others!

I’ve collected several Paleo cookbooks and I follow and read several great blogs for recipes and nutritional information. I really can’t get enough of it! Now that the essentials of living Paleo have become a way of life for me, I’m enjoying learning more advanced nutritional information about how what we eat impacts our bodies– even good, naturally grown fruits and vegetables — and how to use food for healing. I’m taking a weekly advanced nutrition class at Exodus Chiropractic for four weeks starting in January and I can’t wait!

My plan for 2013 is to push even more toward living a more natural, healthful lifestyle. I’m not exercising enough (really only on weekends), so one of my goals for the new year is to figure out a schedule that allows me to fit in an appropriate amount of good exercise (3-4 days a week instead of 1-2!). Many people who live Paleo style rave about the CrossFit exercise approach. I like the looks of it, but can’t afford to join one of the gyms. So I hope to start doing similar (or the same) exercises at home.

In the past week or so, I’ve also become more convinced that I need to start working toward a more natural body care routine. If I’m not putting a bunch of crap into my body — why am I putting it on it, where it can be absorbed? I’ve found some good resources and plan to experiment with some of them. That transition will be a slower one for me, but it’s one I’m now willing to begin.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll wrap it up. I’m just so eager to share this experience!

Living Paleo is a commitment. The food prep and planning takes time. And while it doesn’t have to be uber expensive, it certainly isn’t cheap. I’ve made sacrifices and adjustments to my budget in order to live this way and I can’t eat as organically as I wish. (There are some things I insist on eating organically like berries, apples and lettuce, which are eaten pretty much as is and also get treated with a lot of pesticides in their non-organic form. But some things aren’t a big deal. Bananas and pineapples, for example. We don’t eat the exteriors of those fruits and they’re thick, so I’m totally fine with skipping organic with them. I buy grass-fed/free-range meat when it’s on sale or I have the extra, but more often than not, I’m limited to buying lean meat that has no antibiotics or added hormones.)

But… it’s worth it!

If you want to life a more healthful lifestyle, I would encourage you to check into the Paleo diet, even if you don’t follow it 100 percent. Simply eating real food and cutting some of the crap like soft drinks and artificial sweeteners is a good start and will make a difference in your overall health.

Thank you for reading my ramblings about going Paleo! Since this is now a big part of my life, I’m sure I’ll share more of my Paleo experiments/discoveries/adventures in the future!

I got a food processor and four new Paleo cookbooks for Christmas! I can't wait to start putting them all to use!

I got a food processor and four new Paleo cookbooks for Christmas! I can’t wait to start putting them all to use!

Vacation 2012: Charleston

After brunch on Sunday in Amelia Island, we said our good-byes to extended family and hit the road for Charleston.

Hannah and I took a quick side trip along the way to the Tanger outlet stores in Hilton Head and we all arrived in lovely Charleston Sunday night.

I guess the activities of the past few days caught up with us then, because we were all exhausted that evening! Mom, Hannah and I went to the Whole Foods store across the street from the hotel to get supplies for dinner, then we simply relaxed and called it a night.

By the way, that was my first time in a Whole Foods store and I loved it! Mom, Hannah and I went back a few more times before we headed back to Knoxville. I can’t wait for the one in Knoxville to open in late 2013! Trader Joe’s is cheaper and Earth Fare has great coupons, but I’ll probably still pop in Whole Foods from time to time.

Back to Charleston…

On Monday, we loaded up in the morning and headed to the Isle of Palms beach. The pull of the tide isn’t as strong and the drop off is more gradual, so we enjoyed being able to go farther out into the water at Isle of Palms than on Amelia Island. But I have to admit, while Isle of Palms was still nice, I got spoiled at Amelia Island. Isle of Palms was *much* more crowded! I also decided to avoid laying out on the beach because the mosquitoes apparently thought it made a good buffet. A few of them got to me before I opted to just hang out in the water.

Isle of Palms

We headed back to the hotel in the early afternoon, showered, then headed for historic downtown. I *LOVE* historic downtown Charleston. All of the rich history, the beautiful buildings and centuries-old traditions fascinate and excite me. I need to return to Charleston when I have more time to explore!

Of course, we couldn’t go to downtown Charleston and not stroll through the City Market and enjoy a meal at Hyman’s.

Eating dinner at Hyman’s

Afterwards, we worked off our meal by walking down Market Street to Battery Park and back. The historic homes are so gorgeous! I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that I would love to live in a home like that — just plop it onto a piece of land here in the Knoxville area. 🙂

Home on Meeting Street

The next day, we decided to explore a little more outside the downtown Charleston area. We drove to the Angel Tree, a centuries-old live oak outside Charleston. Unfortunately, it started raining about the time we got there, so it was hard to enjoy it. And while it certainly is a huge tree and it’s remarkable that it’s survived all that time, we were all a little under-impressed and eager to get out of the rain.

Angel Tree

Next, we moved on to the American Tea Plantation. I think this was the highlight of the trip for Mom and Hannah. I thought it was pretty cool, too, even though I’m more of a coffee girl. We took a quick tour of the area where they bring the tea inside and process it, then browsed through the store and sampled several different flavors and types of tea.

American Tea Plantation

And that pretty much wrapped up our adventures in Charleston. On Wednesday, we loaded up and headed for home.

Hannah and I took a “detour” again and stopped in Asheville for a few hours. (We don’t get out of East Tennessee much, so when we do we try to seize the opportunity to explore everything we can!) We walked through parts of downtown then enjoyed a delicious meal at Tupelo Honey Cafe. I’d heard many people rave about the restaurant and now I have to say that I agree with them! Hannah and I ate off their gluten-free menu and I was very impressed! I can’t wait for their new restaurant to open on Market Square! Their gluten-free menu probably will become my new special occasion indulgence for eating out.

All in all, my vacation was a great, relaxing time away from home. I enjoyed exploring two of my favorite places in the world with my family without the pressures of daily life at home. We all needed that brief escape from reality!

//

Vacation 2012: Amelia Island

I returned home yesterday from a week-long vacation with my family. It was a getaway we all needed desperately and it felt so good to “escape” from real life for a week of relaxation and rejuvenation.

We divided our time between Amelia Island, Fla. and Mount Pleasant, SC (outside Charleston). For simplicity’s sake, I’ll separate my account of our trip into two entries, one for each location.

Our journey began with the road trip down to Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach. My sister, Hannah,  and I drove down together while my parents and youngest brother traveled separately. Hannah and I enjoyed the chance to take our time and enjoy each other’s company throughout the long drive. We listened to Julie by Catherine Marshall (one of my favorite books) on tape the whole way down and made quick stops at an outlet mall in southern Georgia to go in a Book Warehouse store. Hannah had not seen Savannah, so we also drove through the historic district (where I managed to get us turned around for 15-20 minutes).

We finally arrived on the island around 8 p.m. The beach beckoned with a magnetic strength, so we stopped by to walk in the sand and stick our feet in the water before we even went to the hotel.

Fernandina Beach

I love Amelia Island. It’s located just across the Florida state line on the East Coast, surrounded by the ocean and the Amelia River. Fernandina Beach is a small, beautiful, historic town with a laid-back atmosphere. The beach is beautiful and not crowded. A tangible sense of peace and tranquility seems to rest over the place. It truly is one of my favorite spots in the world.

We spent most of the first whole day at the beach. Sadly, I was so caught up in having fun that I failed to take any pictures. We also strolled through the downtown shops. I had to stop in one of my favorites, even though I opted to get my Christmas ornament from Charleston this time, since I already have one from Amelia Island.

Christmas On the River store

The next day, I went for a run on the road beside the beach (skipped the sand, but got the little bit of sea breeze that was blowing), then my dad, sister, brother and I went to Fort Clinch State Park. I explored the park during my Amelia Island trip with my friend Katherine a couple of years ago and it was one of the highlights of that vacation for me. So I was eager to go back and show it off to the rest of my family. It didn’t disappoint. Almost immediately after driving through the gates, one drives down a winding path with a canopy of Spanish-moss covered trees hanging overhead. It’s beautiful. It looks like a scene straight out of Savannah or Charleston, but it’s tucked away on little Amelia Island. There’s also a preserved fort complete with cannons, from which one can see Amelia River, Cumberland Sound and the ocean.

Fort Clinch drive

On Saturday, we spent the day celebrating my cousin’s wedding, which was the primary reason we made the trip when we did. Winston married his beautiful bride, Amanda, inside my uncle’s church. Then we enjoyed a fun reception along the Amelia River Plantation along the river. I enjoyed taking in the scenery, even though it rained some throughout the evening.

Winston and Amanda’s first dance

All the Overton grandkids (minus my brother Andrew)

Sisters – the must-have silly face shot

Isaac and me

Dancing!

View of the Amelia River

More of the river

On Sunday, we loaded up and hit the road for Charleston after a leisurely brunch at the hotel with all of the extended family and other wedding guests. While I was excited about the next leg of our journey, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed as we drove north. The peaceful island life agreed with me. I enjoyed the entire vacation, but our time in Amelia Island was my favorite. I will hope I get to return before too many more years pass by.

Melting…

I am incredibly thankful for air conditioning these days! Whoever was inspired by God to create that blessed device is a saint.

91 looks a lot more amazing that it usually does!

New blogging home

Welcome to my new blog!

I’ve blogged since my junior year of college over at Life of a Journalizm Girl, but now that I’m finally getting my own website up and running, I’ve decided to move my blog to my site to keep everything together.

This website is definitely still a work in progress, so please bear with me as I develop it into something I hope I can be proud to share with others. On that note, I welcome your feedback as the site develops and changes.

I also hope to return to blogging more often, something I have slipped away from in the past year or so. Writing helps me process my thoughts, so I miss utilizing this outlet for that purpose, even if no one ever reads what I write.

So welcome to my new blog! I hope this post is the beginning of many new blogging adventures!